Sango Xamlashe knows what it takes to beat UP-Tuks, but he has switched sides so this time around his aim is to help the 'Boys in Stripes' start their FNB Varsity Cup-campaign on a winning note.
UP-Tuks will playing North-West University on 3 February at home - a repeat of last year's semi-final, won 24-18 by the hosts. As a seasoned Varsity Cup player Xamlashe is fully aware that there is never such a thing as an easy game.
Xamlashe (21), who represented the Junior Springboks in 2018 and helped the Blue Bulls under-21 team win last year, still rates Varsity Cup rugby as the most intense rugby he has had the privilege of playing.
"It is absolutely merciless. There is never a moment's respite. From the kickoff, there is everything to play for. You can't help but put your body on the line to help your university win," explains Xamlashe who played for FNB Shimlas during the previous two editions of Varsity Cup. In fact, in 2018 he was instrumental in helping Shimlas beat Tuks at his new home ground home.
Despite arriving in Pretoria from Bloemfontein, Xamlashe hails from KIng William's Town in the Eastern Cape where he captained Selborne College and played two years in a row for Border's Under-19 Craven Week team.
Needless to say, getting to watch the Springboks win the World Cup last year was special to the B.Com Finance fourth year as two of the team's outstanding players Siya Kolisi and Makazole Mapimpi are also from the Eastern Cape.
"There is an abundance of talented black players in the Eastern Cape, but unfortunately many of us never get spotted by talent scouts. It could be said that we get to take the road less travelled, which means we need to work much harder on improving our game.
"Kolisi and Mapimpi are both from humble backgrounds. What makes it so amazing is that they not only got to play for the Springboks. They excelled at the highest level. It serves as a big motivation for every black player in the Eastern Cape. We know now that playing for the Springboks is not an impossible dream. You only need to be prepared to persevere perhaps a bit more."
While at high school he played flyhalf. Xamlashe relished doing so, but lately, he has been playing centre. According to the Tuks player not much has really changed.
"My DNA as a rugby player is still that of a flyhalf. When I play as the inside centre, I see myself as sort of being the second flyhalf in the team.
"I strive towards being tactically astute. It might be because I consider the All Blacks' Dan Carter as one of the best to have ever played. He never did anything during a game without thinking first. That is why he was able to dictate the games he played ever so often. If I can end up being half as good as he was, I would consider it as a huge achievement."